Hey… Mardi gras happened again

Man. I need to get me a music icon. Little tig there has that look of surprise and awe, so it kinda works.

I only spent one summer in New Orleans. I’ve never been to a Mardi Gras there. But man I enjoyed the french querter, and even more, the music. NOLA is one of the few truly musical cities we have. A live tradition that lives and moves on. It’s rather bad there are so many other things working against that city. The music is a treasure. So… a quick musical tour.

So Mardi Gras went by again, and they celebrated it again. New Orlenas music is hard to describe and highlight. There’s just so much of it. Much like the cooking folks allude to, it takes a bit of everything and makes it their own.

Most folks when they think of NOLA jazz think of the traditional Jazz Funeral and the “second line” of folks who enjoy the musical party after the casket has been turned lose and the procession is returning from the graveyard. (The “first line” are the family, mourners and the body. The “second line” are the folks following the funeral for the music)

Indeed, there’s a parade tune called “second line” which is just a basic vamp tune that everybody knows well and after a pass or two through as a group, individual musicians take turns improvising on it. It’s a tune that can be stretched out for the length of a parade route. A big musical party framework.

New Orleans jazz is often associated with that and other forms of early and traditional jazz. It seems to be the last refuge of any mainstream form of Ragtime. Tunes such as Maple Leaf Rag and Pine Apple Rag were fresh and new when John Philip Sousa was writing marches a century ago. And still they’re played. Admittedly, sometimes it’s rather rinky-dink and tongue-in-cheek: 12th Street Rag (One of these days this will end up a soundtrack on a flash animation.)

Core traditional jazz and early hot numbers came out of this tradition. Innovative tunes such as Black Bottom Stomp by Jelly Roll Morton (some folks consider the first true recorded modern jazz piece featuring stop time, improvisation and a few other things musicologists argue over), St. James Infirmary led to the beginnings of big band jazz and were occasionally heard back as echos of Dixieland in tunes like Mack the Knife and in the re-recording of the dixieland books in new forms by everyone from Armstrong though Ellington to Zappa.

There’s also the whole sacred tradition that intersects at that Jazz funeral. It’s a short step from the New Orleans dixie band playing Take My Hand, Precious Lord and Just A Closer Walk With Thee to Duke Ellington’s great spiritual concerts.

Out from the core it mixes into other traditions. You have the piano-rhumba-blues tradition started by the great ‘Fess Longhair (such as Hey Little Girl) and a long line of New Orleans piano players and blues. And of course there’s the newer funk and hip-hop influenced street bands doing things like Dead Dog in the Street or Charlie Dozen.

But honestly, I think I’ve gone on with far too much already. So I should probably stop here.

Happy late Mardi gras.

12 Responses to “Hey… Mardi gras happened again”

  1. susandeer says:

    Hey, handsome… Got any beads for me? *wink!*

  2. dustykat says:

    Your music knowledge dumbfounds me.

    *Throws Beads over your head at Sue*

  3. marmelmm says:

    Oh, do go on. I’m expanding my Dixieland collection wonderfully. 🙂

  4. kagur says:

    Walking the French Quarter

    I loved wandering down Bourbon Street and just listening to the jazz coming from different clubs. I went on one of those formal tours, and the tour bus driver asked for favorite tunes to suggest to the bands. I couldn’t believe it when they started to play “Jambalaya”, one of my favorite songs. Of course, New Orleans is known for jazz, but there is also the Cajun/Zydeco music of the region.

  5. kagur says:

    Re: Walking the French Quarter

    Never made it to a Mardi Gras either, though.

  6. palabrajot says:

    I do like the Little Tig icon, depending on whether he’s shoveling a cookie down his hopeless cute gullet, or trying to keep one from cutely spewing back out. ^.^

  7. Phil says:

    Sure honey .. got some special beads just for you back at the house…

  8. Phil says:

    Re: Walking the French Quarter

    Yeah. Zydeco is probably the area I am lightest in knowledge on. I know the basic forms and orchestrations, but for specific tunes and history I’m pretty much at a loss.

    I know it also ties heavily into the New Orleans “Indian” tradition in some ways. And you get more modern groups like Midnight Oil out of it.

  9. tommicat says:

    Hee, I don’t mind making a cute music tig for you! Jus gimme the word and I’ll try my hand at it. 🙂

  10. kagur says:

    Re: Walking the French Quarter

    You know more than I do, sir:) I simply enjoy the music. ::very impressed with Bigtig’s knowledge of musical tradition::

  11. beerhorse says:

    Thank you again. 🙂 You are single handedly diversifying my music collection. 🙂

Leave a Response